Dean Graber’s custom furniture and cabinet business has grown significantly over the last four years.
Rainforest Custom was a one-man operation when it opened in September of 2015, but as demand of his wooden goods increased, so did his workforce, with now three additional craftsmen employed full-time at its Don Abel Building Supplies workshop.
Beginning today, Graber’s workforce is expanding once again, as the Juneau businessman opens a new showroom and gallery on South Franklin Street for the summer. Rainforest Custom will host a grand opening today from 4-8 p.m.
“I wanted it to look more like a gallery than a gift shop,” Graber said in an interview inside his Franklin Street shop on Thursday. “You go into some of these places and it feels like overload.”
The crafts range widely in size — cutting boards and cupboards line parts of the walls — and price — an electric guitar retails at roughly $2,000, while a small toy whale is $20. Graber estimates 85 percent of the products were produced at his shop, with the remainder of the items coming from 14 Juneau artisans such as Henry Webb, Colin Dukes, George Gress and Jon Lyman.
“It’s unique to have something this close to the ships that is all Juneau-made,” Graber said. “That was my point (in opening). There’s a lot of makers in this town, and I’d like to celebrate that. I think that’s a good thing, something that just isn’t done much anymore. Makers are going by the wayside.”
The shop was still filling out its inventory as of Thursday morning. Alaskan Wooden Toys owners Ed and Kathy Hansen came through the front doors just after 10:30 a.m. carrying three plastic totes of toys. Kathy thinks the shop will attract “a different clientele” than the other gift shops that carry her toys.
“A person isn’t going to walk in this store thinking, ‘I’m looking for a toy to buy,’” she said.
Graber was originally was going to open up next to the Glory Hall homeless shelter. However, after signing a lease for the location, the businessman came to the shop in February to find it “raining inside” and was forced to search for another spot.
“Within the timeframe of a week, I went from (being) almost destitute, to having a new place, the best place I can imagine,” he said.
Helicopter trips and other tours were sold out of the space last summer, and several years before that it was home to Tracy’s King Crab Shack.
While Graber will have to move out at the end of the season — the lease is only for this summer — he’s keeping his eye out for a permanent location elsewhere downtown.
With the beginning of tourist season just around the corner — the first ship arrives Sunday — the Juneau businessman is excited to see how things turn out.
“I couldn’t ask for a better spot,” he said.
IF YOU GO
Rainforest Custom will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on ship days, and hours will vary if there are no ships in port. A 10 percent discount will be awarded to locals throughout the year.
• Contact reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.